In south Louisiana, we must tread lightly in praising Alabama football legends, but this Mother’s Day, we’d like to offer a few words in honor of the late Bear Bryant, legendary football coach at the University of Alabama for many years.

Bryant, who died in 1983, is worth remembering this Mother’s Day for a TV commercial he did in the 1970s for the South Central Bell Telephone Co. Bryant urged viewers to call their mothers, concluding with the now-famous line, “Have you called your mama today? I sure wish I could call mine.”

As the story often goes, that last bit was ad-libbed — a personal digression from a sports legend whose mother was no longer alive.

Bryant’s reference to life’s lost chances captured the public imagination. Many viewers apparently took Bryant’s advice and called their mothers.

Today, the Bear Bryant commercial continues on YouTube. You can revisit it at

And although Bryant’s been gone for a generation now, public figures have continued to evoke his words of advice about calling your mother.

The late Atlanta newspaper columnist Lewis Grizzard, who died in 1994, reported the story of a man prompted to call his mother after seeing Bryant’s commercial. The man’s mother died unexpectedly an hour after the call.

“I don’t have to hit you over the head with the message here, do I?” Grizzard asked readers in 1986.

More recently, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has used Bryant’s words of advice when Friedman gives commencement speeches.

Call your mother this Mother’s Day, and call her as often as you can. Those of us who have lost a mother sure wish we could call ours, too.